Sometimes in life,whatever you try or plan to do, fails invariably.I was going through such a phase.The biggest setback was that I though cleared my Civil services Prelims.Exam ,my application for the Main Exam was rejected by UPSC.It was heart breaking but fault was mine.I made a mistake in filling up the form.So, the dream of becoming an IAS officer vanished.At that point,Praveen's invitation came to me as god send.Goa,a place I can go any time,any number of times.I simply adore that place.Praveen is my dear friend and a Batchmate.He was posted in Vasco Da Gama.Another thing I liked about this invitation is the timing.It was Chrismas time.

But as the fate had it in mind,hurdles were not willing to leave my side.I wanted to start early but once in office ,you do not know when you will be free.By the time I reached Aurangabad bus terminal,it was already late.When I reached Pune,the last bus for Goa had already left.Pune was a new place and I did not know anybody there.I tried for some nearby hotels but got scared by observing the sleezy looks and surroundings.I saw highly and garishly madeup girls are loitering around and often entering the hotels with some shady looking men.Same was the situation at the gate of Pune's bus terminus.I somehow managed to eat something and retreated inside the terminus, as at that point of time,it seemed the safest place.

It was an extremely chilled night.The next bus to goa was at 4-00 am.and I had no where to go.Only option for me was to sleep on the cement benches inside the shed of the terminal.and that is what I tried to do.Sleep was not forthcoming as the cold was piercing the bone.Only a sweater was not enough.For one night I became a Vagabond.Early morning, I got up.It was quite dark.The toilets of the terminal was full of users and when empty,unusable,as per my senses.The bus came in time but there was no seat.All seats were reserved and I had no reservation.Infact I did not know that I would require one.

It was a journey of 15 hours and I stood in the bus for 10 hours.when I reached Kadamba bus stand of Panaji,the last bus for Vasco had already left.Since it was Chrismas time,no hotels were available.I was roaming around at night searching for a place to stay,and my companions were drunkards,few tourists- out for happy hours,prostitutes waiting under the shadows of the trees in the parks and occassional choral singing groups.Their beautiful songs were making me more aware that in this city, I am all alone.And then somehow I managed to get a place to sleep in a Lodge.

Next morning I started for the Kadamba bus stand to catch a bus for Vasco but the bad luck was following me there also.There were so much crowd for the buses that I had to literally push me in to be inside the bus.Just as I got the seat and was feeling relieved,I put my hand on my trouser's pocket to take out my purse, to pay for the ticket.It was not there anymore.Some good pocket-mar had pickpocketed the purse.I was dumbstuck and in total panic......

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After the initial shock,I realised within seconds,that I had tucked in a major portion of my money in a hidden pocket in my underwear.Oh my god!Really you are there to help a person in trouble.In situations like this,we feel your presence more.Thereafter ,the bus journey to Vasco was beautiful.Through goan country side,villages,beautiful and colourful bunglows,Churches and crossing the river in a ferry,which can carry a bus also.Local folks,beautiful girls,liquior shops,bars,local markets,each of them gives a specific character to this place.It does not seems to be india but a foreign land.

Praveen was supposed to wait for me in Hotel Rodrigues.It is on the main road just before the Vasco city.Praveen has taken leave for me.I got down and as I entered the hotel lobby,I saw Praveen at the reception.It was a feeling I can not describe.We rushed at each other,with open arms to hug heavily.Afterall,we were meeting after two months.The closeness we developed during our training period was no less than like a family member,though we belong to different areas of India. Praveen said-Boss,it feels so good to see you again.I nodded and said-You have become a little thin.Praveen laughed and said-good for me.

We reached Praveen's apartment in his mobike.It was small but compact.I suddenly felt tired.We had a light lunch and I took a long nap.I woke up as Praveen was shaking and calling me.He was saying -Beta,you have come here to sleep only or what?Get up.-We got ready and started for the city.The Vasco city is like small town.It consists of two main road crossing each other.We roamed around and then settled for a bar.In Goa,if you throw a pebble,it will either hit a Church or a bar/wine shop.We ordered Fenny-a local was strong.I remarked -The stuff is good , just like local beauties.Praveen gave a laugh and said- Boss,tomorrow we will go to my office,I want to show you something.I have so much to tell you.-Why not now?- I asked.-No, first you visit my office-He was adament.

Next day,we went to his office.It was very nice, at fourth floor,with a glass wall on one side, overlooking Murmagao Harbour.Most of the employees are ladies.I was taking a look around,suddenly I saw her walking in.She was stunning-in a light blue top and blue denim,she looked like a movie star or a model.I felt a tap on my shoulder.Praveen said-Bachchu,got floored?I wanted to show her to you.How is she?Can't explain but who is she?-I asked.She is working with me.Her name is Nidhi.Nidhi Kamath.-said Praveen.Can I exchange my office with you?-I asked.Praveen laughed and said-No way,darling.come ,let me introduce you to her.

Nidhi!Meet my friend and batchmate,-Riku,as we call him.He is in our Aurangabad office.Nidhi gave a flashing smile and shook my hand.As long as we were talking I observed Praveen's face.It was radiantly glowing.

Later,we were discussing only her.It was very difficult to take her out of our mind.During lunch time, Praveen confessed that he has fallen for her but yet to propose her.I asked-what was her response to you.I think she likes me-He said.Then propose her-I said.I didnot have the guts to do that.Now ,since you are here,I can risk it.If I fail,you will be there to console me.-He said.I thought silently-Oh god!My current luck, you know-It should not pass on to Praveen.Praveen asked-Why are you so silent?Tomorrow, we have a holiday for Chrismas eve.I am planning to get a car and visit Benaulim beach.I want to ask her to accompany us.What do you say?I remarked-Fine,fine,it will be a pleasure.

It all went on as planned .She readily agreed to accompany us.Next morning,we started for Benaulim.It is one of the most wonderful beach of south Goa-remote,less crowded.On the way we picked her up from her home in Margao.She was as sweet a person as she looked.The whole day went on in fun,gossip and frolic.The beach was beautiful,like a half moon,with two hillocks at both end.We drove hired mobikes on the beach on the sand.Had wonderful rawa fried Squids washed down with beer,in nearby shack hotels.Suddenly, I could not find them.I was searching for them everywhere,when suddenly I saw both of them walking hand in hand,at far, on the sand.I was about to call them but I thought otherwise.

It was the hour of Sunset with a crimson sky.The water of the sea was glistening like orange crystals and the roar of the waves was breaking the silence.At a distance,in some fishermen's cove,some local songs are being sung.A tune very known,which I recognised latter.It was the song -Na Maangu Sona Chaandi-From the film Bobby,but being sung in konkani.

Latter,at Martin' s Corner,in the midst of diners, a live Band was singing beautiful Chrismas songs,when I saw love was blooming fully.Sometimes, it is the atmosphere and surroundings, that brings love to you.It complements your mood and mind.

I suddenly felt alone---I also wished if I could have had someone at that moment, touching my hand and looking at my eyes...sitting beside me.... near the sea.....

Well, Santa did not have any gift for me.